The details of the injury are still scant, but Brian Kelly announced this morning that starting center Braxston Cave will be lost for the remainder of the season. The injury will push senior Mike Golic into the lineup, the first change in the starting offensive line this year.
“Braxston Cave will be out for the season. He is going to get surgery in the next few days,” Kelly said. “I don’t have the technical information for you other than to tell you that they have to go in there and repair a ligament, so he’ll be lost for the year. It’s a tough loss for us and Braxston has been a consistent performer for us over the past few years. We feel terrible for Braxston and he’s given us everything over the past two years but he will be back, and that’s the good part about it.”
Saturday, Kelly thought Cave had a mid-foot sprain, and sounded upbeat about the overnight healing process. But an MRI likely revealed an injury that took the team’s senior center — who still has a year of eligibility remaining — out and thrust Golic, playing his first significant minutes against Wake Forest, into a unit that’s the strength of the team.
Kelly sounded confident that the Golic would be able to step in and keep the unit playing great football.
“We have a great deal of confidence in Mike Golic,” Kelly said. “Mike came in and played very well for us. I think when you look at the center position there’s always a great concern because that guy is put in a very difficult situation with shotgun snaps and changing up the cadence, calling out some of the defensive fronts and structures, but Mike’s done a nice job and we have a great deal of confidence. It’s a next man in situation for us with Mike going in there.”
Kelly cited Golic’s improvement physically over the last 18 months, with the center making great strides in Paul Longo‘s strength program. He also cited Golic’s comfort working from the shotgun, where his snaps were all crisp and quick back to Tommy Rees on Saturday, the first, but very important, step that goes with playing the position.
Fifth-year grad student Andrew Nuss will slide in at the No. 2 center position, while sophomore Bruce Heggie will move up into the No. 2 slot at left guard behind Chris Watt. That Golic gets the starting nod over Nuss shows you that it isn’t just lip-service being paid by Kelly when he’s complimented the work the senior has done. Similarly, that Heggie now slides into the back-up role at guard likely means he’s done enough to impress the staff with his athleticism and versatility, and also that the coaches don’t want to burn a year of eligibility on players like Conor Hanratty and Nick Martin, two freshman that have impressed this year.
Kelly wasn’t ready to talk about the trio of players dealing with ankle injuries, with Manti Te’o, Aaron Lynch and Ethan Johnson all on the mend. But he did announce that Theo Riddick would miss Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury, another injury setback for the junior wide receiver.